There are four Sundays in Advent. The following service outline would be
ideal for an evening meeting before the first Sunday of Advent. Much of the
activity prepares the sanctuary for subsequent Advent activities. This service
may be an alternative to the first Sunday of Advent that appears in the main
body of this resource book. If it is, use the Advent candle lighting section
from November 30. The following service is timed at seventy minutes. There are
suggested adjustments if you conduct this service before November 30.
You may want to sing carols that are not in your hymn book. If you copy,
project, or display words and music from carols and hymns not in your hymnal,
apply for permission in plenty of time for their use.
In the weeks before Advent, choose leaders to organize others to prepare the
Welcome and Call to Worship: Psalm 134:1–2 (1 min.)
Praise in Song and Prayer (10 mins.)
Sing joyous carols and praise hymns that your congregation enjoys.
Expand this section by adding more hymns, carols, and prayers if you are
not using the Advent candle lighting section. Invite several children
and adults to offer short prayers of thanks and joy.
*Hymn: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” HS 238 (3 mins.)
*Invocation (1 min.)
Tradition: Going to Church and Hearing the Christmas Stories (10
Announce the Season of Advent: What’s Coming? (2 mins.)
Announce and invite people to all Advent and Christmas celebrations.
The Christmas Story: Luke 2 (3 mins.)
Worshipers bring nativity pieces to the front and create the Nativity
scene. Play “Silent Night! Holy Night!” or “Away in a Manger” during
Stories and Memories (5 mins.)
Ask the congregation to share what they love about Christmas.
Tradition: Decorating the Sanctuary (20 mins.)
History of the “Hanging of the Greens” (2 mins.)
Let the congregation know that the phrase “Hanging of the Greens”
comes from Europe. For the northern Europeans and cultures that grew
from them, green represented the color of eternal life. The greenery
they decorated with came from trees that stayed green all winter. The
color red represented the blood of Christ, which reminds people of the
promise of eternal life. Decorations and colors may be chosen from other
cultures or from your own tradition.
Hymn: “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” HS 260 (3 mins.)
You may prefer another traditional Christmas carol such as “Deck the
Halls,” found in many books of carols.
Decorating: “Hanging of the Greens” (15 mins.)
Assemble the Advent wreath, place the candles, hang the banners, and
add other decorations that you have chosen. Decorate the Christmas tree.
If individuals know exactly what his/her part is and have all necessary
tools and materials, this section can be accomplished in fifteen
minutes. If you are not using the Advent candle lighting section, you
may allow more time. Play recorded Christmas music while decorating.
Tradition: Lighting the Advent Candle (10 mins.)
The tradition of the Advent wreath and candles came from
pre-Christian people in northern Europe. During their long winters,
people gathered greenery, built fires, and prayed that spring and the
light of the sun would return. Christians adapted this tradition to
remind themselves of the light of Christ and the hope that Christ
If this service is an alternative to November 30, see candle lighting
suggestions for that service and adapt them to take only ten minutes.
Tradition: Gift Giving (10 mins.)
Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1–5, 7–11 (2 mins.)
Bring Your Gifts to the Manger (8 mins.)
Invite the congregation to bring their gifts and tithes forward and
lay them in the manger. Individuals or families may also take a
decoration from the tree that describes a gift they can donate to the
clothing or toy drive. Play “What Child Is This” or “We Three Kings”
during this section.